Erin’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Content = R (Adult Content, Violence, Sexual Content, Language, High Anxiety Shaving)
Why: The Color Purple represents our first voyage into the critically acclaimed Books to Movies Challenge! Honestly (doesn’t that make you wonder when we haven’t been as forthright?), we couldn’t have started with a more complete and emotionally charged book / movie. Not sure why it took us so long to attempt this fantastic work.
Celie’s life is filled with just about every hardship imaginable - raped by her father, brutalized by her husband, and maliciously denied her sister. Yet, somehow she perseveres. She finds friendship in a woman named Shug Avery, who happens to be the object of desire for Celie’s husband. And as the relationship between the unlikely pair flourishes, Celie fights to establish her voice and free herself from her oppressive husband.
The Book: The Color Purple is so much more complex that we could hope to condense into the above summary. The glimpse into this era was as appalling as it was profound. The narrator, Celie, has a unique and powerful voice that touches the reader. Actually, all the characters felt larger than life, despite their oppressive circumstances. The correspondence between the sisters was probably the most touching aspect of the novel, although it was amazing to watch Celie develop and mature. Mister, in all his loathsome glory, was also a fascinating character who... actually we shouldn’t say any more. He was just interesting – in a despicable sort of way.
The Movie: Overall, the movie was very faithful to the book. There was more focus given to the bond Celie and Nettie formed as children, which really did an excellent job establishing the sister’s relationship. While the multiple facial shaving scenes had us squirming in our seats, the movie also contained a few more elements of humor which helped offset the severe tone. There were a few discrepancies – the one at the end was a bit irksome – but overall Whoopi Goldberg was able to portray a strong and complex woman who was able to persevere through deplorable circumstances. It was interesting to see that this movie actually started her career. And then there was another soon-to-be famous actor who tried to fool us with his name in the credits. Nice try “Larry” Fishburne...
In our opinion, the novel won the day, but the margin was narrow. The letter format in the novel added to our experience and the details of Nettie’s life added a dimension that was missed in the movie. Still, you can’t go wrong with either – just be sure you read the book first. We do have ways of finding these things out!